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As Long as We Remember...

July 5, 2002

Significance of Quattro di Luglio

Linda & Tony Checchia

As children of two respective sets of parents who immigrated to this country from Italy, the 4th of July is especially significant to us.

As we grew up celebrating the 4th with traditional picnic fare as well as plates of pasta, with horseshoes as well as bocce ball, this holiday has always been the day that we stop and reflect on the sheer fortune of the fact that we truly live in the most incredible - no matter where he or she hails from - country in the world.

Living in America and celebrating our country's independence mean two important things to us.

First, it means remembering the classic immigrant story. We grew up hearing about Italy and how our parents left the land of their births for a land of opportunity. Whenever we see pictures of "huddled masses" staring at the Statue of Liberty, we can actually see our parents. They came to America simply for the chance to create a future, to work and earn an income that could support and prosper a family, to access education and a decent life, to provide for their children - the very first generation born in the United States.

It was as if every 4th of July they owed a report card to prove they were worthy of the gift of entry they had received when they landed on these shores - learned the language, found jobs, bought homes, raised children and made sure they all graduated from college, learned the pledge of allegiance, earned U.S. citizenship, and always cheered for TEAM USA in the World Cup.

They came to this country seeking simply opportunity, not handouts nor assistance. They truly believed that with hard work and perseverance, anything was indeed possible in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Remembering the lessons of our parents' journeys is what the 4th of July means to us.

Second, celebrating Independence Day in America also means celebrating our heritage, while recognizing that we are Americans first and foremost. In other words, we never grew up hyphenated; we were not Italian-Americans. We simply were Americans of Italian heritage. We were proud of our traditions, of spending summers in Italy, of being able to speak Italian to our grandparents and our many Italian relatives. Being able to maintain and carry on the traditions of our parents' homeland while celebrating our own country's independence is truly what the 4th is all about.

As we celebrate Independence Day this year we cannot help but pause to reflect upon the challenges facing this country and threatening its very fabric - freedom. It was freedom that lured our parents to seize the incredible promise of America. It is freedom that enables immigrants to this new land to call it home, yet at the same time be able to maintain, live and share their unique cultural traditions. That's what America is all about.

And, that's what makes being an American on the 4th of July so special - no matter from whence one hails.

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